NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police have arrested a man accused of making terror threats against a Yeshiva camp on Long Island.

They had lived side by side peacefully for years, a landscaper and the camp next door. But tension over the threat of COVID-19 and the camp social distancing practices led to a terrifying threat, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday.

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For years they’d been friendly next-door neighbors — 58-year-old Nicola Pelle of Inwood and administrators at Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island, but on Monday that relationship soured when police say Pelle called police with the following complaint:

“That approximately 500 students were wearing no masks and in violation of social distancing,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. “‘If I gotta go out there with a freakin’ machine gun and shoot all these people, I will.'”


That threat now has Pelle charged with the felony of making a terroristic threat. He’s also charged with gun crimes, after Nassau police said they found 14 firearms in his Doughty Boulevard home, legally owned rifles, shotguns, and hand guns, but also two assault weapons.

Police said they take complaints of social distancing seriously, but, “We are more concerned about those threats that come every year against our children while they are in school,” Ryder said.

There were 570 threats against Nassau County schools just last year.

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Neighbors called this threat out of character for Pelle, who they characterized as a “good guy” who just had lung cancer surgery, which could explain his alarm over perceived social distancing violations at the camp.

“He just was frustrated and I guess with the Oxycontins in him from the cancer surgery he just made a blur. I never expected that blur to come out him mouth, not at all,” neighbor Anthony Rivelli said.

Rabbi Ari Ginian, the executive director of Yeshiva Ketana, insisted the camp does follow all social distance guidelines, but it may not look that way from a distance. He also offered the neighbor understanding.

“We feel that he may have been frustrated by some of the situation that we are under. There is duress right now on everyone’s part. We feel for him that he brought himself to that point and we hope that he takes back what he said,” Ginian said.

The camp said it is grateful to police for their quick response to the threat.

The charges against Pelle carry a 7-11 year sentence if convicted.

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